What is Ayurvedic Nutrition?
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old medical system of India, states that poor nutrition is the main cause of disease. This system uses food to heal and prevent illness.
Ayurveda has an expansive definition of nourishment that goes beyond food, to think in terms of all the things that fuel our life force, including relationships and doing the things we love.
The foundation of Ayurvedic nutrition is based on the idea that you are the result of what, when, where, how and why you eat. Ayurveda explains that your food should be eaten mindfully and with gratitude, and that it must be fresh, of the highest quality, digestible, delicious, lovingly prepared and satisfying to your senses. Ayurveda offers a balanced approach to preparing, eating and digesting your food based on your unique body-mind type or Dosha, as well as the time of day, the season, your life-cycle and where you live.
Two fundamental principles in Ayurveda are; “like increases like” and “opposites create balance.” Foods with qualities that are similar to a Dosha will increase that Dosha and foods with attributes that are unlike a Dosha will decrease or pacify that Dosha, thereby, keeping the Dosha in balance. The tastes and qualities that balance Vata are sweet, sour, salty, warm, heavy and moist. The tastes and qualities that balance Pitta are sweet, bitter, astringent, cool, dry and heavy. The tastes and qualities that balance Kapha are pungent, bitter, astringent, light, warm and dry. You can refer to the Dosha balancing food lists in Ayurvedic literature or simply consider the general qualities of the food (hot/cold, light/heavy, dry/wet) as to whether it will increase or decrease a particular Dosha.
Ayurveda proposes that all six tastes be included in every meal in Dosha balancing ratios. According to Ayurveda, if your meal consists of all six tastes, your brain and body communicate in way that assists efficient digestion and leaves you satisfied. Proper digestion leads to good assimilation of nutrients and contentment reduces food cravings and over eating. By sprinkling Dosha specific seasoning, or Churna, on your meal you can be assured that you are receiving the six tastes at one time.
Unlike a fad diet, the dietary practices in Ayurveda encourage a conscious way of living. Ayurveda is a way of embracing food as life-giving energy, and a way of understanding how your individual nature and the influences around you determine how well your food will serve you. Ayurveda explains that your dietary needs and your digestion are affected by the rhythms of nature and the changes that occur in your life. Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle is to make food choices that are based not only on your original Dosha, but according to the quality of the food, the current season and your location.
As a practice based on science and spirit, Ayurveda encourages you to prepare and eat your food in a peaceful, loving and pleasant environment; and to greet your food with reverence, acknowledging its source with gratitude.
Diet consultations according to Ayurvedic concepts for kids not growing well, during pregnancy and lactation, for weight loss, detox and therapeutic diets for various disease conditions would be suggested. One needs to keep a food journal for 3 days plus answer some questionnaires in order to assess your dosha (constitution) and level of the disease conditions one has. (vikruti).